Hawaii bans seabed mining | RNZ News

Hawaii’s new legislation banning seabed mining has come into force Tuesday after it was signed into law by Governor Josh Green.

It follows a letter sent by 12 members of the US Congress to President Joe Biden in June, urging for a moratorium on deep seabed mining ahead of this month’s International Seabed Authority meeting.

The new legislation, Hawaii Seabed Mining Prevention Act, prohibits the extraction and removal of minerals in state waters and bans issuing permits associated with seabed mining activity.

The bill, introduced by Senator Chris Lee, complements a law passed last year which allows Hawaii to deny entry to any marine vessel involved in seabed mining activities.

Lee said this move would safeguard Hawaii’s marine ecosystem “for the foreseeable future”, protecting more than 3000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean.

He said it was a precautionary measure as the environmental impacts of seabed mining were not yet clear.

“The impact that [seabed minerals mining] can have on the broader ocean, and species and habitats is simply unknown. But we do know that that impact is real, and the risk is real.

“We take action while we can; to protect our natural resources, to protect our oceans and ultimately to protect the planet we live on.”

Lee added the seabed minerals industry was moving too fast and being cautious was necessary.

“Right now, the conversation appears to be driven largely by an industry that is very intent, on racing to capture part of the market and getting as much out of it as they can, which means an exploitation of the resource in our oceans in ways that we simply can’t properly manage, properly vet, and with science that we simply don’t yet have.

“We’re putting on the brakes.”

A Hawaiian green turtle.

Local environmental organisations say the ban is a big step in the right direction.

Brittany Kamai, of long-time campaigners A’ole (‘No’ in Hawaiian) Deep Sea Mining, said this was a positive example for the Pacific region.

“Seeing that from Hawaii is very powerful. We don’t want the ships coming into our waters, and we don’t want this industry to happen, and we need people to understand that we are ocean people,” Kamai said.

‘Keep ecosystem intact’

An indigenous elder said the new law also complied with ancient Hawaiian chants.

Solomon Kaho’ohalahala shared a kumulipo (traditional creation chant) that was passed on by Queen Lili’uokalani, the last reigning queen of Hawaii.

In the traditional creation chant, it places significant value on even the smallest living organisms in the deep sea.

The chant recognises the significance of creatures such as coral polyps which are integral to the growth of coral reefs.

It goes on to show how all life forms are interconnected through the life cycle.

Kaho’ohalahala said this emphasised how humans needed to look after the marine ecosystem.

“Our creation chant invokes this inherent responsibility that we have to be connected to all ecosystems and we bear the responsibility to take care of it.”

“So for us, for a people whose country is the ocean, it would be important for us to make sure that we keep this ecosystem intact.”

He said the ban on seabed mining in Hawaii honoured this chant.

red tropical fish hide in corals at the bottom of the sea.

Kaho’ohalahala is now calling for the rest of the Pacific to follow suit and take a united stand against seabed mining.

He said while each nation legally reserved the right to make their own decisions, leaders needed to consider the potential impacts mining could have on neighboring nations.

“The ocean knows no boundaries. You cannot draw a line on the ocean and say that what I do on one side of the line will not impact the other side.

“A nation deciding to move ahead, has to know that they’re going to impact not just themselves, but they’re going to impact all of us.”

Kamai agreed, saying the voices of indigenous people could hold great power in decision-making spaces.

She said Pacific people had a responsibility to use their voices to protect the ocean.

“As voices of the ocean, there’s a lot of kuleana (responsibility) right now to be in these spaces and have these conversations.

“What are our goals and what do we want to do for the world and humanity?

“Let’s try to get there in the way that’s the most loving and caring that we can, not only for one another as people, but for all the creatures that live in the sea, for all the birds that fly in the air, all of that is what we really need to consider when making decisions.”

Teeming reef scape in Hawaii's  Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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